Mum uses tracking device hidden in teddy bear to catch 'sick' thief who stole from her murdered son's grave

The teddy bear in which the tracking device was hidden

Grave thief Andrew Balshaw, who was caught using a tracking device hidden in a teddy bear.

Mum Joan Holland at her son's graveside.

Mum Joan Holland with the tracker she used to catch thief Andrew Balshaw

16-year-old Andrew Holland, who was murdered in 2007.

First published in News
Last updated
The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Reporter

A GRIEVING mum turned detective — putting a tracking device inside a teddy bear — to catch the thief who was stealing from her murdered son’s grave.

The man she trapped was jailed yesterday for 12 months after he admitted stealing from 16-year-old Andrew Holland’s resting place.

Joan Holland was so devastated by losing her son in 2007 that she has visited his grave every Sunday to place items on it she thought he would like.

But Mrs Holland and her family became frustrated and angry that the gifts kept going missing.

After they found the grave completely stripped on Mother’s Day this year, they decided to act.

Mrs Holland’s son Martin bought a £200 tracker and they stitched it into a teddy bear, leaving it on the grave in St Michael’s churchyard, Great Lever, at 3.30pm on April 18.

Lindsay Thomas, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court that the next day, at 5pm, Mrs Holland’s daughter-in-law received an automatic alert warning her the teddy was being moved and the family was able to track the teddy’s route via GPS.

It led them to Andrew Balshaw’s flat in Holcombe Crescent, Kearsley, where police arrested him and recovered the bear, as well as other items including an angel which had been stolen from the grave six months earlier and a porcelain dog belonging to the family.


MORE:


David Toal, defending, said 48-year-old Balshaw had not stolen the items to sell.

He said: “They were, in effect, wholly inappropriate gifts to his partner.”

After his arrest Balshaw initially claimed he had bought the teddy and found the other items, but then later pleaded guilty to theft and possessing a small amount of cannabis.

In a statement read out in court Mrs Holland told Recorder Jeremy Lasker about the devastating effect the thefts had had on her.

She said: “Since Andrew died the only comfort I have gained is by going to the graveside.

“I feel so angry someone would take items from his grave.

“The only thing I can do is go to his graveside and leave the ornaments I know he would love.

“That small comfort has been scarred.”

At the time Balshaw stole the teddy he was already on bail over theft of a bicycle.

The court heard Balshaw was sorry for committing the offence and now understands how his victims feel after suffering the loss of his grandfather recently.

Mr Toal added that while on remand in prison Balshaw has been targeted by other prisoners.

“Because of the nature of this offence, he has been significantly bullied and subject to violence,” he said.

But Recorder Lasker, who described the Holland family’s actions as clever and astute, told Balshaw his crime was “heartless and callous”.

He said: “The public would be outraged if I did not pass a sentence of imprisonment on you.

“There is no doubt that this family have suffered severely by what you have done.

“There is nothing I can say in passing sentence on you that is likely to assuage the grief or upset of the victims.”

Andrew Holland was stabbed to death outside Ashys takeaway in Plodder Lane, Farnworth, on August 17, 2007.

His grave was first targeted in 2008, just a year after his death.

Mrs Holland wept in court as Balshaw was jailed for 12 months.

Speaking to The Bolton News after the case, she said: ”It is not long enough, but at least justice has been done. I think he’s sick.”

She said she had no sympathy for him and believes he has targeted other graves as well as her son’s.

Comments (36)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

7:50am Sat 9 Aug 14

Reed Lover says...

Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes another scumbag to plumb new depths. I can't imagine what was going through his head nor how violated the family must have felt. Shame on you Anthony Balshaw.
Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes another scumbag to plumb new depths. I can't imagine what was going through his head nor how violated the family must have felt. Shame on you Anthony Balshaw. Reed Lover
  • Score: 115

8:44am Sat 9 Aug 14

MrsB11 says...

I'm glad he's being targeted by other prisoners. I hope they make his life a misery. I walk my dogs in the graveyard and I stop by this grave quite often just to have a look at all the lovely things that the family leave. Well done on turning detective and catching the scumbag.
I'm glad he's being targeted by other prisoners. I hope they make his life a misery. I walk my dogs in the graveyard and I stop by this grave quite often just to have a look at all the lovely things that the family leave. Well done on turning detective and catching the scumbag. MrsB11
  • Score: 102

9:04am Sat 9 Aug 14

bandit14 says...

Justice being done
Justice being done bandit14
  • Score: 54

9:25am Sat 9 Aug 14

the judgement day says...

bandit14 wrote:
Justice being done
You'd like to think so Bandit, but unfortunately He'll be out of whichever holiday camp they put him in by next Easter at the latest
[quote][p][bold]bandit14[/bold] wrote: Justice being done[/p][/quote]You'd like to think so Bandit, but unfortunately He'll be out of whichever holiday camp they put him in by next Easter at the latest the judgement day
  • Score: 33

9:39am Sat 9 Aug 14

catsden says...

Hope this piece of SCUM suffers for the rest o his life , to steal from a grave is disgusting , let the prisoners get to him.
Hope this piece of SCUM suffers for the rest o his life , to steal from a grave is disgusting , let the prisoners get to him. catsden
  • Score: 42

9:48am Sat 9 Aug 14

smw2012 says...

It's sad when people have to take things into their own hands. This lady has been through enough without having to become a detective too. But what's to say this idiot won't come out of prison and target some other persons resting place...
It's sad when people have to take things into their own hands. This lady has been through enough without having to become a detective too. But what's to say this idiot won't come out of prison and target some other persons resting place... smw2012
  • Score: 30

9:53am Sat 9 Aug 14

vicric87 says...

I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.
I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence. vicric87
  • Score: 10

10:10am Sat 9 Aug 14

EmShambles says...

I just don't get it! What a strange little man. Well done to the Holland family for catching the freak.
I just don't get it! What a strange little man. Well done to the Holland family for catching the freak. EmShambles
  • Score: 38

10:14am Sat 9 Aug 14

did-i-just-say-that says...

vicric87 wrote:
I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.
I don't get it. Surely you mean you're shocked at the other sentences where people have done a lot worse?
[quote][p][bold]vicric87[/bold] wrote: I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.[/p][/quote]I don't get it. Surely you mean you're shocked at the other sentences where people have done a lot worse? did-i-just-say-that
  • Score: 18

10:34am Sat 9 Aug 14

owencoyle99 says...

vicric87 wrote:
I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.
300 years ago he would have been hanged
[quote][p][bold]vicric87[/bold] wrote: I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.[/p][/quote]300 years ago he would have been hanged owencoyle99
  • Score: 23

10:47am Sat 9 Aug 14

marco999 says...

What an amazing story but the lengths you have to go to sometimes! Really glad to see this 'grave robber' get what he deserves. Sad that at 48 years old it still didn't occur to him that what he was doing was very wrong and that he may be causing distress to a bereaved parent. What a sad and deluded individual.
What an amazing story but the lengths you have to go to sometimes! Really glad to see this 'grave robber' get what he deserves. Sad that at 48 years old it still didn't occur to him that what he was doing was very wrong and that he may be causing distress to a bereaved parent. What a sad and deluded individual. marco999
  • Score: 25

10:49am Sat 9 Aug 14

questionairre says...

I do not always think these memorials are appropriate, however; fair play to the lady and it just shows that if you set your mind to it, these scumbags can be brought to book.
I do not always think these memorials are appropriate, however; fair play to the lady and it just shows that if you set your mind to it, these scumbags can be brought to book. questionairre
  • Score: 14

11:14am Sat 9 Aug 14

BibbleBobble says...

I hope some fair minded person knocks the living daylights out of him.

Pure selfish scumbag!
I hope some fair minded person knocks the living daylights out of him. Pure selfish scumbag! BibbleBobble
  • Score: 26

12:12pm Sat 9 Aug 14

EveDallas says...

Why are they not appropriate? They aren't doing anybody any harm.
Why should you stop doing something because of all the scumbags out there.?
Why are they not appropriate? They aren't doing anybody any harm. Why should you stop doing something because of all the scumbags out there.? EveDallas
  • Score: 15

2:47pm Sat 9 Aug 14

goldie47 says...

lets hope he suffers at the hands of other prisoners on a daily basis
lets hope he suffers at the hands of other prisoners on a daily basis goldie47
  • Score: 17

3:04pm Sat 9 Aug 14

chris25 says...

Hope now that Mrs Holland and her family can now get some peace when going to visit her boy ,instead of worrying about scum like him.
Hope now that Mrs Holland and her family can now get some peace when going to visit her boy ,instead of worrying about scum like him. chris25
  • Score: 15

3:18pm Sat 9 Aug 14

artistpaint says...

Even slime at the bottom of sewers has more morals than that excuse of a human.
Even slime at the bottom of sewers has more morals than that excuse of a human. artistpaint
  • Score: 15

4:55pm Sat 9 Aug 14

Janch1 says...

Scary that there are total scum bags out there who will steal from a grave and as if that itself in not bad enough they then give the stolen items as gifts to a partner. What kind of partner could a scum bag like this have in the first place?? The mind boggles. Have they got no thought for the families who are grieving and hurting and who put those gifts on the grave for their loved ones? No they haven't as sadly this seems to be the culture of today. I hope this low life does get what he deserves in prison. No doubt he will be out soon getting his benefits and no doubt rehoused and I am sure the partner he has lavished these gifts on will be waiting for him and he will probably commit the same crimes again!! They should throw away the key.
Scary that there are total scum bags out there who will steal from a grave and as if that itself in not bad enough they then give the stolen items as gifts to a partner. What kind of partner could a scum bag like this have in the first place?? The mind boggles. Have they got no thought for the families who are grieving and hurting and who put those gifts on the grave for their loved ones? No they haven't as sadly this seems to be the culture of today. I hope this low life does get what he deserves in prison. No doubt he will be out soon getting his benefits and no doubt rehoused and I am sure the partner he has lavished these gifts on will be waiting for him and he will probably commit the same crimes again!! They should throw away the key. Janch1
  • Score: 12

5:18pm Sat 9 Aug 14

dominoman says...

He should have been made to pay the price of the tracking device. Why should this family be out of pocket. 10 years would have been right.
He should have been made to pay the price of the tracking device. Why should this family be out of pocket. 10 years would have been right. dominoman
  • Score: 20

5:35pm Sat 9 Aug 14

artistpaint says...

Thought mps were bad but by gum.whats goingon in great britain.
Thought mps were bad but by gum.whats goingon in great britain. artistpaint
  • Score: 6

8:37pm Sat 9 Aug 14

wsw69 says...

Very well done to Joan Holland and her family for bringing this low-life vile scum of a half breed to some form of justice. Should have been at least 5 years as well as paying back the cost of the GPS tracking device.

Let's hope that the inmates of whichever clink he's locked up in have a great day with him.
Very well done to Joan Holland and her family for bringing this low-life vile scum of a half breed to some form of justice. Should have been at least 5 years as well as paying back the cost of the GPS tracking device. Let's hope that the inmates of whichever clink he's locked up in have a great day with him. wsw69
  • Score: 13

9:09pm Sat 9 Aug 14

calvin street says...

just when you thought you had seen Bolton,s worst along comes the lowest form of SCUM. I hope this vermin suffers every single day in prison.
Well done to mrs Holland,s family . I hope you get some closure if that is possible, thinking about you and hoping your can move on.
just when you thought you had seen Bolton,s worst along comes the lowest form of SCUM. I hope this vermin suffers every single day in prison. Well done to mrs Holland,s family . I hope you get some closure if that is possible, thinking about you and hoping your can move on. calvin street
  • Score: 8

9:25am Sun 10 Aug 14

bigjsh says...

This guy is the lowest of the low,
And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt
This guy is the lowest of the low, And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt bigjsh
  • Score: 12

11:31am Sun 10 Aug 14

BIG ERN says...

bigjsh wrote:
This guy is the lowest of the low,
And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt
No he's just a tw@t. That's an insult to drug addicts whom even at their lowest ebb wouldn't steal from a grave.
[quote][p][bold]bigjsh[/bold] wrote: This guy is the lowest of the low, And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt[/p][/quote]No he's just a tw@t. That's an insult to drug addicts whom even at their lowest ebb wouldn't steal from a grave. BIG ERN
  • Score: -5

12:02pm Sun 10 Aug 14

bigjsh says...

BIG ERN wrote:
bigjsh wrote:
This guy is the lowest of the low,
And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt
No he's just a tw@t. That's an insult to drug addicts whom even at their lowest ebb wouldn't steal from a grave.
So are you saying that he isn't as bad as somebody on say smack or crack, that robs old women, robs there own mother, father, grandparents myself I think he should be tarred with the same brush,
He's a low life thief in my eyes simple as,
[quote][p][bold]BIG ERN[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]bigjsh[/bold] wrote: This guy is the lowest of the low, And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt[/p][/quote]No he's just a tw@t. That's an insult to drug addicts whom even at their lowest ebb wouldn't steal from a grave.[/p][/quote]So are you saying that he isn't as bad as somebody on say smack or crack, that robs old women, robs there own mother, father, grandparents myself I think he should be tarred with the same brush, He's a low life thief in my eyes simple as, bigjsh
  • Score: 14

8:44pm Sun 10 Aug 14

BIG ERN says...

What I am saying,as one who works with drug addicts, is that you are tarring all of them with the same brush. But then again, you're someone who doesn't have a clue about people with addictions, and follows the Daily Mail guide on how to spot a "druggie"... they all rob grandmas, don't you know...

smh...
What I am saying,as one who works with drug addicts, is that you are tarring all of them with the same brush. But then again, you're someone who doesn't have a clue about people with addictions, and follows the Daily Mail guide on how to spot a "druggie"... they all rob grandmas, don't you know... smh... BIG ERN
  • Score: 2

8:48pm Sun 10 Aug 14

BIG ERN says...

However that said and as someone who is friends with the above mentioned family, he is indeed a low life. What I'm saying is, drug addicts are not low lifes.
However that said and as someone who is friends with the above mentioned family, he is indeed a low life. What I'm saying is, drug addicts are not low lifes. BIG ERN
  • Score: -4

9:47pm Sun 10 Aug 14

bigjsh says...

I'm not saying all drug addicts are low life's I know people on drugs and they work for a honest living to pay for there habit same as I work
All week to enjoy a night out with my mrs at weekends
And if your freind of the above mentioned family why would you call him a tw@t and a low life that's not a very supportive family freind to me, and as for me reading daily mail guide like I stated I have freinds who work too feed the habit so your mistaken there
I'm not saying all drug addicts are low life's I know people on drugs and they work for a honest living to pay for there habit same as I work All week to enjoy a night out with my mrs at weekends And if your freind of the above mentioned family why would you call him a tw@t and a low life that's not a very supportive family freind to me, and as for me reading daily mail guide like I stated I have freinds who work too feed the habit so your mistaken there bigjsh
  • Score: 3

11:49pm Sun 10 Aug 14

BIG ERN says...

sigh....

I am a friend of the family who's grave has been robbed.
sigh.... I am a friend of the family who's grave has been robbed. BIG ERN
  • Score: -1

12:07am Mon 11 Aug 14

BIG ERN says...

bigjsh wrote:
I'm not saying all drug addicts are low life's I know people on drugs and they work for a honest living to pay for there habit same as I work
All week to enjoy a night out with my mrs at weekends
And if your freind of the above mentioned family why would you call him a tw@t and a low life that's not a very supportive family freind to me, and as for me reading daily mail guide like I stated I have freinds who work too feed the habit so your mistaken there
This guy is the lowest of the low,
And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt

So what actually are you saying? You assumed he's a drug addict because he carries a bag aroud.... and **** me he has a dog!

deffo smack head then aint he,,,
And where does your nights out with the missus come in to the equation?
We were discussing the above twatwaffle which degenerated into assuming he is a drug addict.

Let me guess: The people you know snort cocaine.
And pay for it

That much more acceptable to the Daily Mail readrers that a "smack head" will pay for their drug, isnt it.
[quote][p][bold]bigjsh[/bold] wrote: I'm not saying all drug addicts are low life's I know people on drugs and they work for a honest living to pay for there habit same as I work All week to enjoy a night out with my mrs at weekends And if your freind of the above mentioned family why would you call him a tw@t and a low life that's not a very supportive family freind to me, and as for me reading daily mail guide like I stated I have freinds who work too feed the habit so your mistaken there[/p][/quote]This guy is the lowest of the low, And looking at his pic I'm 100% certain he walks around town a lot of the time with his dog and he has a large shoulder bag all the time with him, he will be a drug addict no doubt So what actually are you saying? You assumed he's a drug addict because he carries a bag aroud.... and **** me he has a dog! deffo smack head then aint he,,, And where does your nights out with the missus come in to the equation? We were discussing the above twatwaffle which degenerated into assuming he is a drug addict. Let me guess: The people you know snort cocaine. And pay for it That much more acceptable to the Daily Mail readrers that a "smack head" will pay for their drug, isnt it. BIG ERN
  • Score: -1

10:41am Mon 11 Aug 14

Lancashire always says...

BIG ERN wrote:
What I am saying,as one who works with drug addicts, is that you are tarring all of them with the same brush. But then again, you're someone who doesn't have a clue about people with addictions, and follows the Daily Mail guide on how to spot a "druggie"... they all rob grandmas, don't you know... smh...
Oh silly me i must apologise after being burgled it didnt occur that they might just be troubled souls needing my precious items to clear a longing in them i feel so selfish now ! I will be tarring them all with the same brush thanks just as we are told not to speak to strangers when we are children because just one of them might be bad.
[quote][p][bold]BIG ERN[/bold] wrote: What I am saying,as one who works with drug addicts, is that you are tarring all of them with the same brush. But then again, you're someone who doesn't have a clue about people with addictions, and follows the Daily Mail guide on how to spot a "druggie"... they all rob grandmas, don't you know... smh...[/p][/quote]Oh silly me i must apologise after being burgled it didnt occur that they might just be troubled souls needing my precious items to clear a longing in them i feel so selfish now ! I will be tarring them all with the same brush thanks just as we are told not to speak to strangers when we are children because just one of them might be bad. Lancashire always
  • Score: 3

11:39am Mon 11 Aug 14

mrs philainsy says...

Just look at the b.e.n. picture of the loser.
Gifts for his partner........pfft.


What an absolute lowlife to steal from a Grave on more than one occassion, and not bat an eyelid about it.

I hope Karma bites him right on the ar$e in the near future.
Just look at the b.e.n. picture of the loser. Gifts for his partner........pfft. What an absolute lowlife to steal from a Grave on more than one occassion, and not bat an eyelid about it. I hope Karma bites him right on the ar$e in the near future. mrs philainsy
  • Score: 5

1:39pm Mon 11 Aug 14

RogerDT says...

owencoyle99 wrote:
vicric87 wrote:
I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.
300 years ago he would have been hanged
Shame it aint 300 years ago!
If someone stole from my son's grave I would want to kill them personally.
[quote][p][bold]owencoyle99[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]vicric87[/bold] wrote: I'm more shocked at the sentence - people have done far worse for a lesser prison sentence.[/p][/quote]300 years ago he would have been hanged[/p][/quote]Shame it aint 300 years ago! If someone stole from my son's grave I would want to kill them personally. RogerDT
  • Score: 3

4:52pm Mon 11 Aug 14

OriginalAngryDad says...

The blurb under the photo of the Teddy Bear on the main page said he'd been caught using it.

How do you "use" a Teddy Bear....?
The blurb under the photo of the Teddy Bear on the main page said he'd been caught using it. How do you "use" a Teddy Bear....? OriginalAngryDad
  • Score: -1

6:26pm Mon 11 Aug 14

Citizen Cane says...

goldie47 wrote:
lets hope he suffers at the hands of other prisoners on a daily basis
...they'll just put him on a cushy vulnerable prisoners wing...it does look like he is an habitual offender, so this is all in a day's "work" to him. This is the sort of trash that is supported by the tax that is stolen from honest, hardworking people. Let natural justice prevail and he wouldn't be breathing now. Let a probation officer at him and all you get is more tax wasted and yet more offending.

Vote UKIP if they put public criminal executions on their manifesto. Come on Nige, you know it makes sense and cracking, back-to-basics reality TV.
[quote][p][bold]goldie47[/bold] wrote: lets hope he suffers at the hands of other prisoners on a daily basis[/p][/quote]...they'll just put him on a cushy vulnerable prisoners wing...it does look like he is an habitual offender, so this is all in a day's "work" to him. This is the sort of trash that is supported by the tax that is stolen from honest, hardworking people. Let natural justice prevail and he wouldn't be breathing now. Let a probation officer at him and all you get is more tax wasted and yet more offending. Vote UKIP if they put public criminal executions on their manifesto. Come on Nige, you know it makes sense and cracking, back-to-basics reality TV. Citizen Cane
  • Score: 0

7:14pm Mon 11 Aug 14

mr.mark.c says...

Those trackers are around £20-£25 on ebay, not the £200 posted unless she was ripped off with that as well as having her sons grave robbed.
Sadly the same trackers are being used by the people they are supposed to catch, They attach them under cars and then monitor the cars movements for a few days, that makes easy pickings and they get the tracker back to use all over again :(
Granted in this case it was used for a legit reason and gained a result, but be warned, they are about the size of a small mobile and come with a magnetic/waterproof case that can be slipped under most cars in seconds.
Those trackers are around £20-£25 on ebay, not the £200 posted unless she was ripped off with that as well as having her sons grave robbed. Sadly the same trackers are being used by the people they are supposed to catch, They attach them under cars and then monitor the cars movements for a few days, that makes easy pickings and they get the tracker back to use all over again :( Granted in this case it was used for a legit reason and gained a result, but be warned, they are about the size of a small mobile and come with a magnetic/waterproof case that can be slipped under most cars in seconds. mr.mark.c
  • Score: -1

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree